Bird has unveiled its third-generation electric scooter, dubbed simply Bird Three. The shared scooter company says that its new vehicle is the “world’s most eco-conscious” scooter designed for rental services.
The big improvements are in the larger battery and strengthened frame construction, which combined could help Bird advance its sustainability messaging while also driving profitability. The company recently won approval to begin operating in one borough of New York City as part of a pilot program the city is running.
Built tough — Bird Three has a battery pack of “up to 1kWh,” up about 150 percent from the previous generation. That means it can support more miles traveled before it needs to be picked up off the street and charged. An IP68 rating that protects against water and dust means the Bird Three’s battery should last more than 14,000 miles before it needs replacing. Bird thinks improving battery durability is more sustainable than a hot-swapping solution.
The scooter is also built with a new construction of “aerospace-grade A380 mated to an AL6061 extrusion” that can withstand more than 60,000 curbside impacts, making it ideal to face the rigors of shared use where riders might not take so much care like they might with a scooter they own themselves.
Because rider accidents have long been a PR headache for scooter companies, Bird has continued pushing new safety measures. Bird Three features “self-sealing” pneumatic tires that can “absorb” uneven terrain, and an elongated wheelbase for improved stability. New high-powered LED headlights provide increased visibility at night, too. Proprietary software built into the scooter will enforce speed limits and offer gentle acceleration to beginners so they don’t unexpectedly press too hard on the throttle and become unstable.
Overall, Bird says that in early test markets, Bird Three saw a nearly 400 percent drop in damages and a 185 percent increase in rides taken per vehicle.
Scooter-nomics — These numbers are key for shared scooter companies, which have struggled to become profitable. Bird launched in 2017 and quickly raised hundreds of millions of dollars to blanket city streets around the globe with its convenient electric scooters, on the premise they could address congestion and pollution while also being a convenient way to travel short distances. But the company quickly fell down to Earth when it found the economics of scooter rentals were bad. At one point in 2018, Bird was reported to be spending $551 to buy each scooter, which needed to be in use at least three months to reach break even. But the scooters would last only one to two months.
The scooters Bird and others initially used in their fleets were off-the-shelf products bought from China, which were flimsy and would break down quickly. In response, they have spent years developing these custom vehicles that are more durable.
Scooter companies have tried to appeal to cities by promoting the eco-friendly nature of their services. Every ride taken on an electric scooter releases zero emissions (though the electricity used to charge them may still come from emissions-generating sources) and is, potentially, one fewer person in a private vehicle. All of that is true — and fast adoption shows there’s demand for a quick and cheap way to get around cities. But broken scooters strewn on public streets were undermining the companies’ messaging as a sustainable way forward. Hopefully the Bird Three helps change that.